Film Of The Week: AFTER EARTH (2013)


SYNOPSIS:

In After Earth, one thousand years after cataclysmic events forced humanity’s escape from Earth, Nova Prime has become mankind’s new home. Legendary General Cypher Raige (played by Will Smith) returns from an extended tour of duty to his estranged family, ready to be a father to his 13-year-old son, Kitai (played by Jaden Smith). When an asteroid storm damages Cypher and Kitai’s craft, they crash-land on a now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth. As his father lies dying in the cockpit, Kitai must trek across the hostile terrain to recover their rescue beacon. His whole life, Kitai has wanted nothing more than to be a soldier like his father. Today, he gets his chance.

My biggest gripe with some people nowadays, specifically some film goers, is that many of them choose to believe whatever they hear about a certain film. And although all films get different treatment by different directors, nine times out of ten many people will follow the hate flock and push narratives that undermine the potential for those looking to enjoy a good movie. Partly, such was the case with Dredd 3D, a film whose predecessor, despite how spectacular it looks, got the butt end of every fanboy and girl who has ever had an opinion about a film. And ultimately, Dredd 3D suffered the same fate.

Disturbingly though, I am noticing a pattern of this behavior when it comes to certain films and filmmakers. Unfortunately, After Earth is no exception to this behavior, as I look at a lot of opinions by people who either claim to have seen the movie and hated it, or by people simply judging the film based on its trailer and leaving it at that.

I almost passed up the opportunity to see the film until two weeks ago when I met up with a stunt performer friend of mine from France, Anthony Pho who was in town for the very last weekend of May and wanted to see After Earth before he left. We hung out, saw the film, and simply put, we enjoyed it. (You can view our hilarity by clicking HERE)

The film takes place in a distant future where environmental catastrophe forces what remains of mankind into a total exodus, searching for another planet to co-habitate. They finally land on Nova Prime where they unfortunately meet a new threat in the form of an alien race of creatures who kill their prey by sensing! fear, looking to threaten the humans with extinction until General Cypher Raige leads The Ranger Corps into battle to defeat them. Among those, his older sister, Senshi, (Zoë Kravitz) who lost her life defending her younger brother against one of these creatures.

Time passes, and humanity finds itself home, where the story begins, and ultimately we are led to observe a tense relationship between Cypher and his son, Kitai who burdens himself with the death of his sister and tries to becoming a Ranger in order to make his father proud, ultimately to be disappointed and sent home without rank. And with Cypher's wife, Faia (Sophie Okonedo) providing the only voice of reason for her husband to help understand where Kitai is at this point in his life, it is then that Cypher reaches out to his son to join him on a space expedition.

From there, the trip goes smoothly until the ship gets severely damaged by an asteroid shower that forces the ship to crash land onto a categorically dangerous and volatile planet that was once called Earth. And with no other survivors on board, and the plane literally split into two across dozens of miles of terrain, unstable weather conditions, various species of beasts and insects centuries into their evolution ready to kill anything human, Cypher left injured with both legs broken and time running out, Kitai must venture out to retrieve the beacon they need to send a distress signal that will warrant their rescue. The journey is long, perilous, and will fervently test Cypher and Kitai more than ever before, not just as a leading General and a cadet in training, but a father and son who only have each other.

The film puts out great visual effects, spectacular action sequences and an epic look into a universe with a sense of uniqueness that made the film very enjoyable. And while director M. Night Shyamalan might have his less glorious moments in cinema, this was not one of those. It really wasn't. Actor Will Smith and son, Jaden perform excellently as their roles of Commander and aspiring Ranger, in a story that begins illustrating how fractured their relationship is in the beginning of the film, until it peels the layers revealing the eventuality and overall truth about honor, love, trust and courage in the eyes of a father and son who must trust each other if they are going to survive. Best of all, this film was another moment in the history of Jaden Smith's growing career as a rising performer and action hero (if he chooses to be). No longer the little kid from The Pursuit Of Happyness, Jaden owns his performance in this one, physically and dramatically. And I most certainly look forward to hearing more about him in the years to come.

M. Night Shyamalan is a filmmaker with his own vision for things and it's a particular kind of vision. He isn't Joseph Kosinscki, he isn't Francis Lawrence. Nor is he Neil Blomkamp or Justin Lin, for that matter. So while he may share a different approach to telling a story, his approach is something that really does work for the movie as a fun, thrilling and PG adventure.

After Earth is about more than just special effects in another film about the end of the world. The film is about family, character building and redemption. And I dug it, and so clearly is not for everyone who could have been looking for something else. I, on the other hand, knew what I was getting into in watching an M. Night movie, having seen several of his other works. And I do not regret it the least bit. I can say wholeheartedly and without a doubt that this week's Film Of The Week, After Earth, worked for me. And for those of you who are basing your neglect to see the film based on the trailers, check out a clip from the film at the top of this page. Now you have no excuses, unless you got bills to pay, a marriage to attend or a vacation to go on. And there are several more clips where that one came from. ;-)

As an added thought here, while I was not too familiar with the animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, I still enjoyed the live-action adaptation. And it's unfortunate we may never see a continuation of it. But we need to. That's just me here.

Did you see After Earth yet? If so, what did you think?

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